Philip Humber entered camp this spring with the highest of expectations after a year of escalation through the Mets system. The right-hander jumped to Shea Stadium after successful tenures at St. Lucie and Binghamton last season. With a loaded arsenal and the attention of the Major League coaches, expectations are that he could make a serious splash with the Mets in 2007. Pushed hard this spring, Humber knows the extensive work will pay off in the long run.
Though he packs a fastball in the mid 90s, a snapping curveball and a developing changeup, he is focusing on the consistency of his delivery. Humber worked Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson to bring his mechanics together. He has made marked improvement.
"I've made some good strides towards improvement. Coach Peterson helped me a lot with my delivery which will help me be more consistent with my pitches. It's only a matter of time until it all comes together and opportunities open," he said.
At 6'4", it has required a more concerted effort to get the ball down in the zone. "It had to do with my rhythm and timing. I need to throw the ball downhill and hit the target which is the main the thing. My stuff is there. It's a matter of making pitches down in the strike zone more consistently," he detailed.
What Humber lacks in his mechanics, he makes up with confidence. Though he totaled meager time with the Mets, his experience this spring developed his confidence against the big leaguers. Humber portrays the confidence of a young man on a mission. His rebound from Tommy John surgery has reaffirmed his desire and ability to excel. He may not begin the season on the 25-man roster, but that will not slow him down. He knows when his time comes; he will step in with instant success. He wants the ball, he yearns to win games for his team, and he welcomes the pressure.
"I don't have a doubt that I can get major league hitters out. It's not a thing where I'm scared of facing anyone. It's what you work for, it's the reason why we play, to be in those situations and come through. That's the most satisfying thing, to go out there when the game is on the line and come through for your team," stated Humber in a sharp tone.
This is where the consistency returns. He is well aware that to back up this poise, he must work out the kinks.
"Having a delivery that is always there in pressure situations is huge. I don't want to worry about ‘how will I get this guy out', I just want to know that you can go out and do it," he said.
Now in his second year since Tommy John surgery ended his 2005 season, Humber's health excites him. For the first time in over a year, he no longer worries about the condition of his arm. He acknowledges that it has improved not only his repertoire but his awareness on the mound.
"I've come back with a better mental approach and it helped my changeup a whole lot. In rehab, I threw 60-70 feet w/o breaking balls, so I mixed in a changeup. I learned all the elements of the changeup. It's a lot the reason I had a lot of success last year. I now have a fastball and breaking ball that are both really good. The changeup gives the hitters something else to think about it. It's a big pitch for my career and also now that I'm pain free, I don't have that holding me back both mentality and physically," he explained in detail.
He also takes the time to pick the minds of the veteran pitchers in camp, especially Tom Glavine. He attributes the progress of his batter management, as well as timing his curveballs, to the discussions he has with the future Hall of Famer.
"Tom Glavine gave great advice. He was huge helping out as far as the thought process when to throw my breaking ball for strikes. If I can throw a quality breaking ball early in counts, guys won't swing and that will give me advantage. For young guys, if you show respect, the vets are more willing to help you out," he said.
His accomplishments in 2006 that followed the elbow injury have the set stage for a possible lengthy appearance in Queens this year. Couple the unknown that is the Mets pitching staff with Humber's achievements and the result could be a quick promotion to the big leagues this spring. No matter how his year starts, he awaits his time to shine.
"Getting to the majors and help the team win is going to be my goal. Whenever that time comes, it's my responsibility to be ready. I don't feel any pressure. I just want to go out and be a better pitcher. That's not any more pressure, it's just an opportunity to go out and show what I can do. I'm going to treat it like an opportunity and everyday I'm going to go out and do something better each day," he closed.
Spring Report: Philip Humber
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